What SMEs can learn from our consumer obsession with supermarkets

Is it because of the free parking, the perceived benefit of bulk-buy, or the tailor-made customer loyalty benefits which appear to ‘give back’?

Here’s a guide to the top five things an SME owner might learn from the supermarket set-up:

1. Easy access

You know one of the reasons you return time and again to a supermarket is because the stores are centrally located and there’s a free car park.

Accessibility matters – in Industry, it’s less about having 500 car spaces (although we know it helps), but more about your client being able to access you by phone, online – or through face to face interaction.

Improving your availability and accessibility will enhance your client’s experience of working with you.

2. Multiple purchase options

We’ve been hearing the term BOGOF for years – buy one get one free. As recent research highlights, it doesn’t always mean a supermarket is giving you the incredible bulk buy value you perceive, but, we do know consumers like to think they can buy many things in one place…potentially with some savings.

This doesn’t mean you have to offer every aspect of your industry under one roof, but it will help your offering if your client knows you’re able to be a conduit or efficient project manager for all those deliverables.

A client likes that they can build a relationship with one name, and have follow-on service provision safely managed through your trusted relationship.

3. Market awareness

Supermarkets are good at reading what we like today, what we liked yesterday, and what we may want tomorrow.

Clients want to have the comfort of knowing we’re as good in our industry at reading them, and at knowing how our service needs to adjust going forward.

Agents and consultants who not only read their industry, but that of their clients, will always engender more confidence for the long term.

4. Sound communication

It’s no good these supermarkets doing an ok job at the till, if we don’t feel they maintain some degree of ongoing communication with us.

The stores do this through offers in print and to your email, or through discount vouchers and thank-you benefits which acknowledge our custom.

SMEs need to remember that even though we may be doing a good job behind the scenes, our customers need feedback and communication to reassure them and remind them of our relationship.

Whether you do that through eye-to-eye meetings, frequent mailers or feedback phonecalls to remind them what you’re doing, matters less than that you are at least doing something!

5. Staff with knowledge

So we may not always think of the supermarket shop-floor staff as the most skilled in the world, but in the bigger more successful stores, you’ll note that personnel really do seem to have knowledge of their offering.

When was the last time you tapped a store worker on the shoulder to ask for gluten-free cereal and they said ‘I don’t think we do that…’ And turned their back on you?
Chances are, they didn’t. Instead, they either pointed you to aisle 11, or even came with you.

Customers and clients want to feel that those they are paying for a service have a level of skill and a level of commitment to making their purchasing process easier and more fruitful.

SMEs don’t need to employ or be the brains of Britain, but they do ought to know their industry and their service offering well enough to navigate paying customers.
There’s a reason stores maintain education and training programmes to keep staff informed, educated, and customer-aware. Likewise, in the world of the SME, that devotion to learning and upskilling should always be maintained.

Deborah Watson is an award-winning PR and marketing consultant who founded the communications agency Lexia Media. She advises businesses of all size and scale, helping overhaul strategies, implement new campaigns or managing daily media relations. 

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